Freedom of Borough awarded to dedicated former councillor

A former Mayor of Sandwell and one of the most dedicated local councillors has been awarded the honour of Freeman of the Borough.

Roger Horton who was a Labour councillor for more than 40 years and whose interest in transport led him to becoming a nationally-recognised figure in the field, was presented with the honour by Sandwell Mayor, former Councillor Dr Ann Jaron, at his home, following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. The original ceremony scheduled for March last year had to be postponed.
The Mayor presented him with the official Dedication Scroll and Honorary Freeman Badge as well as a porcelain figure of a sheep – a nod to the ceremonial right of a Freeman of the Borough to be able to drive sheep through Sandwell – along with an afternoon tea hamper for him to enjoy with wife, former Councillor Linda Horton and family.
Mr Horton was born in Smethwick attending Cape Primary School and Uplands Senior School, starting work aged 15 at the Cooperative Laundry in Camp Lane, West Bromwich where his father also worked. Meeting wife Linda there, they married in 1969 at St Matthews Church in Windmill Lane and lived at Hamilton House in Grove Lane where their son Robert was born.
It was here that Roger set up the Cape Hill 500 Club – so-called after the 500 properties that had been built on the new estate there – with the aim of getting residents out of their homes to mix socially.
Roger and Linda helped organise a range of activities including coffee mornings, music nights and bingo sessions as well setting up a play group and youth club, along with trips to the seaside.
He was first elected to the council in May 1975, representing the Soho and Victoria ward in Smethwick, and served as a councillor for 44 years before retiring in May 2019. Mr Horton served on many committees during his council career and was well known as an inspirational chairman of the former environment and highways committee.
He was for many years Sandwell’s lead member for transport and was known for his outspokenness in championing the need for improved bus, train and tram services in the area.
He was later elected as vice-chair of the West Coast 250 Board, a national group to oversee transport issues. Mr Horton was Mayor of Sandwell in 1995/96 and his wife, Councillor Linda Horton was Mayor in 2013/14. As a Smethwick councillor, he was known for his interest in education and was a governor of most of the schools in his ward, and until recently chair of the Crocketts Community Primary School governors.
He has also supported many voluntary and charitable organisations over the years, including Mencap (later MIND) supporting people with mental health issues and serving as a volunteer on the Management Committee of the Sandwell Adventure Play Association which provided after school activities for children across Sandwell.
Roger continued his council work despite becoming blind after an accident in 2012 and overcoming cancer in the last decade - but eventually had to retire from the council after suffering a severe stroke in January 2019. Mayor of Sandwell, former Councillor Dr Ann Jaron, said:

“You couldn’t find a more dedicated or committed councillor, who cared passionately about local people and worked tirelessly for them and their families for more than four decades.
“He also gained a reputation locally, regionally and nationally as a transport campaigner,  fighting to  improve transport links not only for the people of Sandwell but the wider region as well.
“Roger has supported so many people over the years, not only through his council work, serving on many council committees – including education, children’s services and planning, as well as highways and environment - but also through his vital contribution to voluntary and charitable groups in Sandwell.
“He’s even been known to come back from family seaside holidays to attend council meetings and then go back to re-join his family.
“Roger richly deserves this honour of Freeman of the Borough and I’m delighted and proud to have been able to have made this presentation, as one of my final duties as Mayor of Sandwell.”
Mr Horton, said: “I’m extremely humbled by this honour. I’ve always tried my best to help people wherever I can and I’m proud that I was able to champion Sandwell. I’m also extremely grateful to Linda and my family for all their support.”
Mr Horton has been married to wife Linda for more than 50 years, they have a son Robert, three daughters Lucy, Victoria and Charlotte and six grandsons.


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